Digital Tourism

The lockdown and quarantine measures have forced people to stay at home. With no certainty when travel will resume, people have turned to virtual sightseeing and digital tourism as the next best alternative. Social media has been awash with travel photos as people shared snapshots of their past travels while others have turned to travel websites and blogs, dreaming of future travel plans.

In 2018, with 7.12 million international and 98 million domestic tourist arrivals, the industry contributed more than 12 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). As one of the pandemic’s worst-hit sectors, the travel and tourism sector has been working to keep the industry afloat while preparing safety standards for post-pandemic recovery. Recently, the Department of Tourism launched a digital campaign dubbed as “Wake Up in the Philippines.”

So, while the world waits for the fog to clear, here’s how the tourism industry is leveraging technology and digital tourism to promote the country’s cultural and travel destinations:

 

Dreaming of the next travel destinations

At the heart of the country’s digital tourism campaign is a series of video ads featuring regions Bicol, Central Visayas and the Zamboanga Peninsula. With a montage of breath-taking scenery, tourist activities, and an array of colours and textures unique to each region, the video ads can almost guarantee the Philippines a place on the would-be tourist’s next travel bucket list. The series calls everyone to “stay at home, dream, and wake up in the Philippines.”

Online museum tours and virtual sightseeing

The administration of the Walled City of Intramuros partnered with Google Arts and Culture in setting up a virtual tour website. With 17 museums to visit and hundreds of items to view, virtual tourists get up-close-and-personal with the historic walled city’s rich arts and culture collection. Private and non-profit museums have also taken similar steps toward digital tourism to promote the country’s culture and heritage.

 

Old photo of Manila Cathedral
[Old photo of Manila Cathedral. Screen capture from Intramuros Administration’s virtual tour website]

Virtual meetings from Philippine travel spots

Technology has enabled people from all corners of the world to collaborate and exchange ideas. Now, thanks to downloadable virtual backgrounds, Filipino employees can take part in the country’s digital tourism campaign. The Department of Tourism is encouraging employees to customise their virtual backgrounds and make meetings more fun with photos of the country’s tourist destinations.

 

[Downloadable virtual background. Take your colleagues to Mayon Volcano in Albay]

Gearing up for the New Normal

While companies and organisations within the sector are trying to get back on their feet, digital tourism is soft-selling the country’s tourist destinations online.

Planning for the future resumption of travel and tourism, the Department of Tourism and related agencies are now establishing the various protocols and behavioural changes that will ensure the safety of the tourists, employees and locals within the area. To cushion the industry from the impact of the pandemic, the Department of Finance is setting aside PhP 14 billion to help reskill and upskill temporarily displaced workers, purchase test kits and protective gears, and grant loans to affected micro, small and medium enterprises.

In May, the Department of Tourism collaborated with the Asian Institute of Management-Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism (AIM ALT-CFT) and Guide to the Philippines (GTTP), and launched the Philippine Travel Survey: Insights on Filipino Travellers’ Sentiments on the New Normal. The research aims to gain insights on consumer behavior and create data-driven strategies and initiatives to revive the tourism industry. With more than 12,000 Filipino and foreign traveller respondents, the results of the study provided insights into the traveller’s sentiment towards the current pandemic situation and future travel preferences.

Without a doubt, technology will extend well beyond the digital tourism we see today. Once travel resumes, the establishment of COVID-19 hotlines, increase in the use of online travel booking channels, use of QR codes for contactless travel records, and setting up quick response medical teams are some of the ways technology will be leveraged under the context of the “new normal.” With resilience, creativity and a little help from technology, tourism will surely bounce back.

 

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